Nebraska Roster Reset: Defensive Backs
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Nebraska Roster Reset: Defensive Backs

January 30, 2020

The 2019 season has officially come to an end, which means its time to turn our sights toward 2020. With Nebraska locking in the vast majority of its recruiting class during the early signing period, now is a good time to take stock of where the roster stands.

We’ve made our way through the offense and the first two levels of the defense. Next up is a look at the secondary.

Offense: Backfield | Pass-Catchers | Offensive Line

Defense: Line | Linebackers

Cornerbacks (8 Scholarship, 3 Walk-on)

Returners: SR Dicaprio Bootle, JR Cam Taylor-Britt, SO Braxton Clark, SO Quinton Newsome, rFR Javin Wright, JR Ethan Cox (walk-on), JR Bradley Bunner (walk-on), SO Phalen Sanford (walk-on)

Newcomers: FR Ronald Delancey III, FR Jaiden Francois, FR Tamon Lynum

Departures: Lamar Jackson, Tony Butler, Jeramiah Stovall (walk-on)

Nebraska lost a three-year starter in Lamar Jackson at one of the corner spots, but it returns everything else and Travis Fisher has a stacked room of young guys developing behind the upperclassmen.

Barring injury, Bootle likely will not leave the field in 2020 outside of blowout situations. Nebraska will count on him even more this season without Jackson lining up on the other side of the field.

After playing all over the field last season, Taylor-Britt seems like the safe bet to step in for Jackson. He opened the season at nickel corner then moved to safety after Deontai Williams’ season-ending injury. Nebraska likes him at corner.

If it’s not Taylor-Britt, it’ll likely be Braxton Clark. At 6-foot-4, he brings the kind of length to the corner spot that Nebraska lost with Jackson moving on. The coaching staff made sure to get him some extra work down the stretch of the season in 2019.

Quinton Newsome was one of four members of the 2019 recruiting class who avoided a redshirt, playing in all 12 games primarily on special teams, though he saw some action on defense here and there as well. Javin “Budda” Wright, the other freshman in that room in 2019, is another big corner at 6-foot-3 and played on special teams in one game.

Among the walk-ons, Ethan Cox, the quarterback turned receiver turned cornerback from Blair, is a guy who has drawn praise from the coaches. He played in 11 games as a redshirt freshman but dealt with injuries last season and did not play in a game.

Two of the three 2019 cornerback recruits have enrolled early in Jaiden Francois, a 4-star prospect, and Tamon Lynum, one of Nebraska’s first commits in the class. Ronald Delancy III will join them during the summer All three players are from Florida.

Besides Jackson, Nebraska lost a valuable special teams contributor in Jeramiah Stovall, a walk-on. Last week, Tony Butler, announced that he was entering the NCAA Transfer Portal after four years in Lincoln. He appeared in 27 games in three season as a Husker including four in 2019, but almost all of his snaps came on special teams.

Safeties (5 Scholarship, 6 Walk-On)

Returners: SR Marquel Dismuke, SR Deontai Williams, rFR Myles Farmer, rFR Noa Pola-Gates, SR Eli Sullivan (walk-on), JR Lane McCallum (walk-on), rFR Tyson Guzman (walk-on)

Newcomers: FR Henry Gray, FR Isaac Gifford (walk-on), SO Mason Neiman (walk-on), FR Ashton Hausmann (walk-on) 

Departures: Eric Lee Jr., Avery Anderson, Reid Karel (walk-on), Isaiah Stalbird (walk-on)

Nebraska returns its two starting safeties from the 2019 season, although Deontai Williams didn’t even make it through the first game before getting knocked out for the season with a shoulder injury. He’s listed as a senior now, but he’s got a strong case to get a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA which would be a big for Nebraska as he was projected to be one of the team’s best defensive playmakers last season.

Beyond those two, however, the next most experienced player in terms of snaps (excluding Taylor-Britt) is walk-on Eli Sullivan who earned a role in certain sub-packages on defense. 

Like a lot of the guys in Travis Fisher’s room, Noa Pola-Gates—one of the team’s biggest recruiting wins in the 2019 cycle—worked at both cornerback and safety during his first year on campus, but he only appeared in two games on special teams. Myles Farmer, the other freshman safety who redshirted, played in the full four games, both on special teams and on defense.

Henry Gray, a 4-star recruit, enrolled early and will look to insert himself into that conversation of providing depth behind the starters. Ideally, one or more of the freshmen will be ready to step in in case of injury this season as opposed to moving one of Bootle or Taylor-Britt to safety again, but only time will tell if that’s the case.

Isaac Gifford is listed as a walk-on here, but that’s only temporary; he’ll be added to the scholarship list as soon as the fall semester begins. But in the mean time, he’ll pay his own way as a blueshirt and will redshirt during the 2020 season.

Eric Lee Jr. stepped in at different times and made some big plays last season, but the biggest loss at the safety position is probably walk-on Isaiah Stalbird. The redshirt freshman from Kearney grew into a difference-maker on special teams and even jumped ahead of some scholarships guys on the depth chart at safety, but he decided to transfer to South Dakota State.

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